AOL "Project Phoenix" Email Hub Goes Live

Those @aol.com email domain names? With apologies to dad, total jokes! AOL hopes to change that however, and it started today with an attempt to, hrm, freshen up its fledgling brand. Meet Project Phoenix!

Yes, Phoenix, as in the flaming mythological bird that was reborn from its own ashes. How apt.

The rollout is currently in a limited beta, but CNET has graciously detailed what those beta users are currently experiencing in their web browsers right this second:

It looks a lot like Gmail's interface, with a few extra bells and whistles. There's a "quick bar" at the top for sending short e-mails, instant messages (which pop up in very Google Chat-like windows), and text messages. A side bar of "smart view" content previews attached files and maps of locations detailed in the message (AOL representatives assured that these previews only show up from confirmed contacts, so there's no chance of porn spam making mischief here). Messages open in a tabbed interface for easy flipping between messages and the main in-box.

As a hub, Phoenix allows users to link together email inboxes from Gmail and Hotmail, as well as direct messaging services found in Facebook (although that feature is not yet available).

Perhaps the best news, at least for embarrassed @aol.com users, is the hub includes ygm.com ("you've got mail"), love.com, wow.com, and games.com domains for users to choose from. Kidding aside, AOL disclosed to CNET that fully 45% of their traffic comes from the aol.com accounts. Public image aside, that's actually not too shabby!

The Sunday timing is probably more than a coincidence too. Just this week, if you'll remember, we brought you news of Facebook's looming email-related announcement, and why it could mean users will dump Gmail for something a bit more social. [CNET]